It doesn’t take long for reality to strike when employees decide they’re running the company.
On Thursday, conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts, who owns the New York City news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist, announced they are closing, only one week after reporters and editors voted to unionize.
In addition to the two news sites, local news sites owned by Ricketts in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago will also close and the websites' archives have been erased.
DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure. And while we made progress toward building DNAinfo into a successful business, in the end, that progress hasn’t been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to produce the type of journalism on which the company was founded. I’m hopeful that in time, someone will crack the code on a business that can support exceptional neighborhood storytelling for I believe telling these stories remains essential.
Ricketts wrote that he founded DNAinfo in 2009 because "I believe people care deeply about the things that happen where they live and work,” adding that he hoped to build “a large and loyal audience that advertisers would want to reach.” DNAinfo and Gothamist were read by over nine million readers a month.
Last spring, after DNAinfo and Gothamist New York newsrooms made noises about unionizing, Ricketts warned, “As long as it’s my money that’s paying for everything, I intend to be the one making the decisions about the direction of the business.” By September Ricketts wrote on his blog a piece titled “Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create.” He asserted, “ … unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”
The New York Times reported that 115 journalists at the news sites closed by Ricketts will have to find new work.